The role of the scribe in the composition of written correspondence in Israel and Judah

Book chapter


Wearne, Gareth. (2021). The role of the scribe in the composition of written correspondence in Israel and Judah. In In Ast, Rodney, Choat, Malcolm, Cromwell, Jennifer, Lougovaya, Julia and Yuen-Collingridge, Rachel (Ed.). Observing the scribe at work : Scribal practice in the Ancient World pp. 21-43 Peeters Publishing.
AuthorsWearne, Gareth
EditorsAst, Rodney, Choat, Malcolm, Cromwell, Jennifer, Lougovaya, Julia and Yuen-Collingridge, Rachel
Abstract

[Extract] Because the Hebrew Bible is a composite work with a rich and complex transmission history, biblical scholars have a long-standing fascination with the scribal institutions from which it emerged.1 As observed by Karel van der Toorn:

If we are to understand the making of the Hebrew Bible, we must familiarize ourselves with the scribal culture that produced it. That culture was the culture of the literate elite. The scribes who manufactured the Bible were professional writers affiliated with the temple of Jerusalem. They practiced their craft in a time in which there was neither a trade in books nor a reading public of any substance. Scribes wrote for scribes.2

This focus on scribal culture in the context of literary text production has yielded valuable insights into the history of the biblical text, but it has also had an unintended flattening effect, often reflecting an a priori assumption that trained scribes were primarily to be found in the civil and cultic bureaucracies attached to major royal or religious centres. Yet scribal activity in ancient Israel was not limited to the production of biblical literature, and documentary evidence suggests that Hebrew scribes could be encountered in a wide array of situations and performed a range of duties.

Page range21-43
Year2021
Book titleObserving the scribe at work : Scribal practice in the Ancient World
PublisherPeeters Publishing
ISBN9789042942868
904294286X
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All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
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Print2021
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Oct 2021
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